Star Trek: The Next Generation – Deja Q [3.13]

As the Enterprise struggles to help a world whose moon’s orbit is inexplicably decaying, Q suddenly turns up having been kicked out of the Continuum, stripped of his powers, and turned into a human.  Picard struggles with whether to believe him and how to respond.  Q’s knowledge is still useful in the attempts to save the planet, but other aliens angry at Q for previous torments arrive intent to kill Q.  Their attack jeopardizes the efforts to prevent the moon from crashing into the planet, leading Q to choose to sacrifice himself.  This selfless act prompts the rest of the Q Continuum to restore his powers.  Q thanks the Enterprise by saving the planet, and by giving Data the gift of a moment of laughter.

Written by Richard Danus. Directed by Les Landau

Previous Episode: The High GroundNext Episode: A Matter of Perspective

After a couple of hit and miss episodes, we get to Deja Q which absolutely knocks it out of the park. Q Who introduced the Borg and so will always be noted, but this episode is actually a better Q story – really using Q as a character in his own right for the first time, and not as a plot device.  The story is well constructed, deftly mingling Q’s plight with that of the world the Enterprise is trying to save.  Picard’s assumption that Q must be behind this approaching disaster is believable, as his suspicion of Q’s general claims.  But the audience is positioned to be completely on Q’s side.  John de Lancie is  engaging as the de-frocked semi-omnipotent being, with the humor that has always been latent in the character being given every opportunity to shine.

The decision to pair Q up with Data, and to contrast one’s exile with the other’s unfulfilled longing, is a storytelling masterstroke.  They become the perfect counterparts for each other, brilliantly allowing both characters to develop strongly.  And indeed, this story gives us one of the clearest pictures of Data that we’ve had up to this point, and what it really means for him to be an android living amongst people.  Brent Spiner doesn’t have anything terribly difficult to play here, but he does it very well, particularly Data’s confusion but appreciation of his emotional outburst at the end.

Picard’s intolerance of Q shows a strong side of the character that is fitting for this situation.  His mistrust and irritation are slightly one-note, but are played well.  While this is clearly de Lancie’s show, Patrick Stewart is not left  behind.  Picard’s eventual attempts to rescue Q are done naturally, without sentiment, and are as a good an endorsement of Federation values as any other.

Deja Q has some of the best dialog the series has ever boasted, most of it going to Q, though Picard and Data both get their share as well.  There are really more moments than I can list, but I’ve written out a few here.

Q attempts to explain his situation:

Q:  I have no powers!  Q the ordinary!
Picard:  Q the liar!  Q the misanthrope!
Q: Q the miserable!  Q the desperate!  What must I do to convince you?
Worf:  Die.
Q: Oh, very funny, Worf.  Eat any good books lately?

Data considers that Q may be telling the truth about being human:

Data: An irony.  It means that you have achieved in disgrace what I have always aspired to be.

Q sees Dr. Crusher:

Q: I see Starfleet has shipped you back into exile.

Q’s advice to Geordi:

Q: Simple.  Change the gravitational constant of the universe.

Q is frustrated with Picard’s treatment of him

Q:  Picard thinks I can’t cut it on his starship.  I can do anything his little trained minions can do.
Data:  I do not perceive your skills to be in doubt, Q.  The Captain is more concerned with your ability to interact successfully with his little trained minions.

Q is frustrated with Geordi in Engineering.

Q:  Who does he think he is, giving me orders?
Data: Geordi thinks he is in command here.  And he is correct.

 Q attempts a moment of humility with Picard:

Picard: Q, I’m not your father-confessor.  You will receive no absolution from me.

Talking to Data, before his attempt at self sacrifice.

Q: There are creatures in the universe who would consider you the ultimate achievement, android.  No feelings, no emotions, no pain.  And yet you covet those qualities of humanity.  Believe me, you’re missing nothing.  But if it means anything to you, you’re a better human than I.

After being told there’s no dignity in his imminent suicide:

Q: Yes I suppose you’re right.  Death of a coward then, so be it.  But as a human, I would have died of boredom.

See what I mean?  There’s lots of stuff like this.  Great story.

Shout Out to the Past:
There are a few little ones, such as reference to a pre-beard Riker, Worf’s hatred for Romulans, Data not wanting to be magically turned into a human, and Dr. Crusher being gone for a year.  There are also a lot of references to how Q has deceived them in the past (even though I think Q hasn’t actually done that much deceiving in his previous episodes.  I can only recall his half-hearted attempts in the climax of Encounter at Farpoint).

Setting up the Future:
Nothing specific, but this episodes is what made it possible for Q to be shown as an ambiguous friend to Picard and the Federation in some future stories.

Also, a later episode will reference Dr. Crusher as one of the expert’s related to Data’s systems.  I think this is the first episode where we’ve seen her working on Data like she might an organic patient.

Guest Cast:
• Corbin Bernsen has an uncredited role as “Q2”, was well known at the time for starring in the TV series LA Law.

• Wesley does not appear in this episode

• There is a little reference to Troi and her love for chocolate

• Some of the special effects related to the Calamarain and their attack are a bit dated looking.

• I like Beverly kicking everyone out when she’s trying to help Data

• Q is able to launch an unscheduled shuttle out of the Enterprise, something Worf is alerted to at his security station.  Is this only the second time that has happened (Coming of Age)?  You’d think that Worf would be alerted before this happens, wouldn’t you?

• The ending, with the Mariachi band and the cigars, is pretty hilarious.  I could have done without the fantasy women, though.

Dialogue High Point
There is so much that is great, but I think in the end my favorite bit comes with Q in the turbo-lift reflecting upon his situation.

…To say nothing of being too hot or too gold, growing feeble with age, losing my hair, catching a disease, being ticklish, sneezing, having an itch, a pimple, bad breath.  Having to bathe.

Previous Episode: The High GroundNext Episode: A Matter of Perspective

One thought on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Deja Q [3.13]

  1. This is such a great episode. Tons of hilarious lines, while also exhibiting great characterization. John de Lancie is always a delight to have around.

    I just had a depressing thought: Q never got to interact with Lwaxana Troi. What a missed opportunity. That would’ve been the funniest episode ever. Ah well.

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